Today, Jesus goes home. He walks the 20 or so miles from the Sea of Galilee to Nazareth, with his disciples. Intriguing? You ask. Yes already. Because it is not an easy walk.
I discovered this in November 2016 while on my first trip to Israel when our itinerary did not include our two large tour buses going to Nazareth. This is not uncommon for big groups as the road narrows and winds through one Arab village after another, finally arriving in the largest Arab city in Israel today, Nazareth.
Yet I felt compelled to go . . . I just had to see where Jesus grew up and lived most of his life--30 years, minus the two he was in Egypt as a baby. Seeing the topography alone was worth the very interesting cab ride. You see, Nazareth sits in a bowl-shaped depression 1,150 feet1 above the valley, accessed by a long steady climb--the reason I say Jesus did not have an easy walk.
These verses are also intriguing because they mention Jesus’ half brothers and sisters, a point easily forgotten as we follow Jesus through his life and ministry. Jesus was part of a family!
Ah, and then there is the matter of doubt and unbelief…
As we consider these verses, picture Jesus’ long uphill walk to get home. It seems he is first welcome as he teaches in the synagogue on Saturday, but then . . . hmmm.
Mark writes, “He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.
And he went about among the villages teaching. Mark 6.1-6
Huh - unbelief, Mark writes. Having doubts as a believer is normal . . . but unbelief? Well, that’s different. Is it wrong to have doubts? No. The gospels show us again and again those who question, even doubt, and Jesus never condemns them.
First, let’s establish that doubt is not unbelief, though doubt certainly can lead to unbelief if a person does not sincerely seek answers to his questions. The buzzword for this downward trajectory today is deconstruction. Take note: there are answers to our questions if we seek to know truth.
“If you believe in God, you sometimes wonder why He allows certain things to happen. But keep in mind that there’s a difference between doubt and unbelief . . . unbelief is an act of the will, while doubt is born out of a troubled mind and a broken heart.”2
The other day I was having a long discussion about my biblical Christian faith and why I believe it is truth. I recalled when I first heard Josh McDowell speak at the University of Minnesota in 1979, captivated by his intelligent, reasoned, impassioned talk to thousands of us college students. As for me, I grew up believing that Jesus is who he said he was—the Son of God; I believed the Bible was true, never doubting its contents for a minute . . . but McDowell set out to disprove all of that. He dug into archaeology, he researched historical sources looking to dismantle Old and New Testaments—he could not. He investigated the historicity of Jesus Christ—was there even such a person who lived in the first century? And what about the Resurrection? Ultimately, he came up with so much indisputable evidence that it called for a verdict on his part. That verdict? Placing his faith in Jesus Christ.3
But here is what I notice today. There are some who come face to face with these truths and choose not to believe. That is unbelief. I have heard, ‘Yeah, I see what you’re saying, but I still don’t want any part of it.’ Their ‘why’? Could be ‘the Church’-its issues, its people, could be they are afraid-- of how they would have to change their lifestyles, of what other people would say, maybe even their mate. Even when looking at truth, they willingly choose unbelief.
Followers of Jesus can question . . . you see, you really can’t doubt unless you already have faith, right? Straight up, like everyone else, I have had thoughts of ‘what if this isn’t true? What if there is no Second Coming, no Heaven when I die?’ But here is the difference between my doubts and questions, I seek to know truth and follow it. When the questions sometimes come, I review what I know to be true, I remember what I have seen and experienced of Jesus Christ and the evidence for Christianity, the various proofs for the veracity of the Scripture, and I believe.
Nazareth was a small village of several hundred people in Jesus’ day. When Jesus went back to his hometown it was not just that the people knew him when he was a boy and couldn’t make the leap to Jesus the healer, Jesus the wise rabbi, it was their willing unbelief that made them wrong. They ignored the evidence for Jesus Christ right in front of them.
Do you have questions? Take them to God, to people who can answer them. Ask me - I can help! And you know, much of technology and our 24-7 connectedness to information is exhausting, but surely one of the greatest advantages is the scripture at our fingertips and the answers to our sincere questioning.4
Questions, the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OkYQ10f56k
Questions, with a short honest story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kumIOR-NHU8
The Footsteps of Jesus in the gospel of Mark, 18
1 – Swindoll's Living Insights, New Testament Commentary, Mark
2 – G. Campbell Morgan
3 – Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell
4 - More from McDowell: https://www.josh.org/discover-the-evidence/
--Questions? - https://www.gotquestions.org/
--The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel
--Cold Case Christianity the book, the website: https://coldcasechristianity.com/
**Excellent new material, particularly for younger folk--Dark Room Faith - short videos
https://darkroomfaith.com/ - this is free content I highly recommend!